I just finished reading the first couple of chapters on Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down The Bones. She said that she does not use a computer to do her writing. She actually sounded a bit dated on the subject as she said that she might use a Macintosh if she got the chance so that she could put the keyboard in her lap and write in comfort.

My laptop is not in a very comfortable spot for me to write in. I have to lean forward to type. It makes me wonder why I put up with this indignity day in and day out. It is in exactly the same place I use it when I am working and I just now realized that it is rather uncomfortable. I have to struggle to get into a relaxed position to use it. Most of the time I am hunched over like some overworked accountant. For starters, I can't get my chair under the desk. It keeps rolling backwards on five smooth casters that thwart my every attempt to get up under the desk. They are evil.

Next, there is no good place to rest my arms. The left arm rests on my desk, I guess that is ok, but the right is sitting on the credenza, at least an inch lower than the desk and at a bit of an odd angle. Who is responsible for this outrage? Why should I have to put up with these terrible working conditions?!? The question is rhetorical. I know the answer. The person who set up this contortionist's writing desk is... me.

My intentions were honorable. I set up the desk so that it would look good. I put the computer in the right corner because it was a good place for me to hide the power and mouse cables. I did this by judiciously placing a plant where it would conceal the cables as they disappeared into a neat rabbit hole that has been bored into the desk. It was genius.

I then discovered the miracle of USB. The miracle of USB is not that you can hook practically any device to it. The miracle of USB is that I can hook my mouse, external hard drive, Handspring Visor, Document Scanner, and portable Jump drive to it. That means I have five devices that all want to use one of the two ports that are actually installed on my computer by the manufacturer. Who am I to argue with their logic? It is my job to comply with the demands of this computer and make it happy. If I make IT happy, it will make me more productive. Thus, I make a trip to Circuit City (we are on speaking terms again) and buy a USB hub that (Voila!) turns one USB port into four. Since the hub I bought uses up one of the ports I have, I end up with 5 USB ports to share among the three devices that are normally connected to my PC and the two that I hook up to it occasionally. I am set.

It is probably worth noting that I could have all of the ports full at once if I really wanted to, but I don't ever want to. Mostly because I am pretty sure that something would melt down if I tried a trick as foolish as using all of the ports, and I still need this computer to get my work done.

My new problem is that I now have a USB hub hanging off of my computer most of the time now. That's one more gadget to hide, and this one is the size of a pack of cigarettes. It also means there is yet another power cord to snake down the rabbit hole. In a moment of inspiration I enlist the aid of a small humidor help the plant providing the camouflage needed. My laptops upturned LCD panel on one side, the plant and Humidor on the other, and I am never bothered by the pell mell collection of cables behind my laptop. The problem is that to provide adequate cover, I had to push my laptop back near the hole so that there were no gaps in coverage. This is why I lean. This is why I have to stretch to use my laptop. All of this exists so that my computer looks good while I feel bad.

In just the few minutes it took me to pen these words I have already developed a cramp in my back. Another year of this and I will look like the hunchback of Notre Dame while my computer wins the 2003 Home and Gardens Award for "Best Placed Laptop on a Big Wooden Desk."

About Phil Yanov

Phil Yanov is a Technologist, Columnist and Public Radio Commentator.

He is the founder of Tech After Five as well as the founder and President of the GSA Technology Council and the IT Leadership Council.

His personal technology column appears in Greenville Business Magazine and the Columbia Business Journal.

He co-hosts the Your Day technology shows heard on NPR radio stations across South Carolina and is a frequent contributor to technology stories appearing on radio and television.